Top-notch horror reads are not something that I find easy to come by in the middle-grade genre, which is a shame as children do love frights, scares and the unexplained. Every now and again one comes along and Scritch Scratch is set to take the horror genre by storm. Earlier in the year, readers of horror were treated to the fabulous Crater Lake by Jennifer Killick, and Scritch Scratch sits firmly alongside it when it comes to chills and thrills.
This is a spine-tingling, heart-hammering, nerve-shredding read and it is a brilliant addition to the middle-grade horror genre. You’ll have bitten off your fingernails by the end of the read but it’ll have been worth it…
Claire likes to live in an orderly world where everything can be explained. She has little interest in her dad’s stories of ghosts and spirits that haunt her home city, Chicago. Her dad shares his stories of ghosts and frights to people who pay to hear them aboard his Spirits of Chicago bus tour. When the regular driver of the bus tour calls in sick, Claire finds herself forced to embrace the ghostly world of her father and fill in as his assistant on the city tour. Expecting a tour of graveyards, Claire is caught off guard as the bus tour visits scenes of tragic real-life events that plague her home town. The tour is far from boring and she quickly finds herself in the grips of fear. There are plenty of secrets and untold truths amidst the city streets of Chicago.
With the end of the tour in sight and Claire relieved to have survived the night, an extra passenger appears at the back of the bus. A pale-skinned boy with dark eyes. The only clue to his presence, a piece of paper with the number 396 scrawled on it. Determined not to be convinced by the presence of a ghost, Claire reasons that her dad’s ghost stories have gotten the better of her. But when strange events and unexplained noises start happening at home and at school, Claire is forced to accept the ghostly presence. She is being haunted and needs to find out why before it is too late…
Currie has written a story that is a wonderful spooky mix of fact and the supernatural. I love how she has created a story that has history at its heart. The truths of Chicago’s murky and lesser known past are revealed expertly and are an intrinsic part to this spooky read. I for one will be researching more about the events that are revealed within the narrative. I have visited Chicago but knew nothing of the city’s ghostly and haunting past. The characters that Currie has created are very real and relatable. Claire likes to think that she isn’t afraid but has frailties that are revealed. I loved her use of counting as a coping mechanism. The issues that Claire and her friends experience in their first year of high school are completely realistic as the children navigate the turbulent waters of new friendships and relationships.
Scritch Scratch is not for the faint-hearted. It is filled with tension and suspense and I absolutely loved it!
Recommended for 9+.
With thanks to Netgalley and Sourcebooks for the advanced reader copy.